National / Politics

Kobe assemblyman Hashimoto to resign over expense fraud allegations

Kyodo

A Kobe Municipal Assembly member recently in the spotlight for his reported affair with singer-turned-lawmaker Eriko Imai said Monday he will resign following allegations he falsified expense claims.

“I am keenly aware of my responsibility and I should not cause further confusion in the assembly by remaining a member,” Ken Hashimoto, 37, said in a statement submitted to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party faction he belongs to.

He plans to tender his resignation Tuesday, the chair of the assembly said.

Hashimoto denied a report in the latest edition of weekly magazine Shukan Shincho that said he may have obtained ¥7.2 million by fraudulently claiming expenses purportedly charged for printing leaflets.

A company implicated in the allegations said through a lawyer that it wrote up the receipts at Hashimoto’s request “even though it did not actually print” the leaflets.

Kazuhiko Adachi, head of Hashimoto’s faction, said Hashimoto called him early Monday and said he intends to resign. He also said he would return the funds, Adachi said, adding that the faction would “thoroughly” investigate the matter.

Assembly members are paid taxpayer money separate from their salaries to conduct research, study and engage in publicity. But critics say the system lacks transparency and can lead to the misuse of public funds.

In his statement, Hashimoto said he would resolve the matter.

“Even after I resign from the assembly seat, I will still face the responsibility to get to the bottom of this case. I want to eventually fulfill my accountability,” it said.

Hashimoto, whose marriage is on the rocks, was dragged into the spotlight in July after Shukan Shincho revealed his alleged affair with rookie lawmaker Imai, a 33-year-old single mother.

Imai said in a statement at that time that Hashimoto had told her he had separated from his wife. She admitted she was fond of him, but denied committing adultery.

Imai, running on the LDP ticket, entered the Diet in July 2016 via the proportional representation segment of the Upper House election. She was one of the four members of the female idol group Speed, which had several hit songs in the 1990s. The group disbanded in 2000 but re-formed in 2008.